Cameron Pollack/Sun File Photo

November 10, 2021

Like a Good Friend, Louie’s is There

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Put simply, Louie’s Lunch is an icon for Cornell students. Like a good friend, Louie’s Lunch is always there to make you happy. Just tanked your prelim? Louie’s is there for you. Going through a messy breakup? Louies has something to make you feel better. Rain or shine, you never fail to encounter a herd of students outside, waiting for their smooth milkshakes or toasty bags of fries. 

After seeing a line of at least 20 students multiple days in a row, I decided to investigate what exactly made Louie’s Lunch so popular. Vivian Terry ’25 says she mainly finds herself at Louie’s after a long weekend night, when nothing else is open.

“They’re open at just the right hours,” Terry said, remarking on Louie’s appealing 3 a.m. closing time. When inquired about the quality of the food, Brooke Faulcon ’25 says the food, “tastes good … but nobody will ever know about the quality of the food.”

Perhaps this hints at the average blood alcohol content of the typical Louie’s clientele, but Brooke and Terry remained adamant that they are eating a good meal at Louie’s. Terry makes it clear that she would eat “everything” on their menu, whereas most restaurants only have a few items people would actually order. Alas, perhaps there’s more to the food truck’s  success beyond supplying drunk college students with a greasy snack.

“Louie’s lunch is always here for me when no one else is,” says Rob, a staff member at Olin. “I have a big issue with how late most restaurants in Ithaca are open, even fast food closes at midnight.” As dining halls on north campus close at 9 p.m., and Nasties being, well, nasty, Louie’s Lunch serves as a rock for students’ fast food style of eating. 

However, what intrigued me most about the adventure of ordering from Louie’s Lunch was the inevitable line that awaits an unsuspecting customer. The line, which usually serves one customer at a time, can be daunting for a first time customer.

Vivian remarked that she once waited in line for an hour and forty minutes for a grilled cheese, but it “flew by … the vibes were just amazing.” When asked to clarify how it flew by, she responded with, “We were at Louie’s. We ended up sitting down, and we got wet but no regrets.” Perhaps the Louie’s experience extends beyond the food. If Terry and Faulcon were willing to wait in line for over 90 minutes, surely no line would turn them away. “When the line hits the tree I decide it’s not worth it.” Upon inspection, the tree described is about 30 people back from the truck, meaning perhaps a two hour line. 

 I decided that I needed to try this in-demand food truck for myself. On a seemingly normal Friday night, I decided it was time. As I approached, the gleaming shine of the truck caught my eye through the pouring rain. I was shocked to see that there was no line to conquer. Thinking I must be hallucinating, I realized that it was true as I got closer. With no line, I instantly ordered a small bag of fries with a milkshake, and was blessed by my much awaited Louie’s bag in under two minutes. I devoured my meal and with each bite I desired more and more, soon leading to an empty bag. After annihilating my meal, I wondered if what I had eaten was high quality, or perhaps I had been struck by the food truck’s mood.
The fries were warm and, although slightly soggy, made my rainy trek worth it. However, the real focal point was the shake. It was an instance of love at first sight; as soon as I laid eyes on my mint shake, I knew it would sit well with me. The flavor, consistency, and texture made me yearn for more. Despite the food pleasing me at the moment, Louie’s certainly did not seem worth waiting over an hour for. But, as a college student who had been deprived of fast food for two months, maybe it was exactly what I needed. 

Overall, the food, service and price satisfied me. But once the initial high of the mint milkshake wore off, I started to ponder my true feelings towards Louie’s Lunch. If there had been a McDonald’s, Chipotle, Five Guys or any other fast food steps away from my dorm, I would have been just as content, if not more happy. 

Then I had a mind-blowing thought: perhaps the Louie’s line is a blessing in disguise. As I cruised to order, my imposter syndrome activated. Deep down, I wanted a line to sit through, where I could strike up conversation with another fast food craver. My first trip to Louie’s made me want to come back not for the food, but for the experience. I feel compelled to return, and I’m still not completely sure why.

Perhaps just as the pumpkin on the clocktower, the attraction of Louie’s Lunch will always remain a Cornell mystery.

Jimmy Cawley is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].